Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) M. Boucadair
Request for Comments: 8768
Category: Standards Track T. Reddy.K
ISSN: 2070-1721 McAfee
Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) Hop-Limit Option
The presence of Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP) proxies may
lead to infinite forwarding loops, which is undesirable. To prevent
and detect such loops, this document specifies the Hop-Limit CoAP
Status of This Memo
This is an Internet Standards Track document.
This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
(IETF). It represents the consensus of the IETF community. It has
received public review and has been approved for publication by the
Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG). Further information on
Internet Standards is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841
Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8768
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Table of Contents 1.
Intended Usage 2.
Hop-Limit Option 4.
Debugging and Troubleshooting 5.
HTTP Mapping Considerations 6.
IANA Considerations 6.1.
CoAP Response Code 6.2.
CoAP Option Number 7.
Security Considerations 8.
Normative References 8.2.
More and more applications are using the Constrained Application
Protocol (CoAP) [RFC7252
] as a communication protocol between
application agents. For example, [DOTS-SIG-CHANNEL] specifies how
CoAP is used as a signaling protocol between domains under
distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and DDoS mitigation
providers. In such contexts, a CoAP client can communicate directly
with a server or indirectly via proxies.
When multiple proxies are involved, infinite forwarding loops may be
experienced (e.g., routing misconfiguration, policy conflicts). To
prevent such loops, this document defines a new CoAP option, called
Hop-Limit (Section 3
). Also, the document defines a new CoAP
Response Code (Section 6.1
) to report loops together with relevant
diagnostic information to ease troubleshooting (Section 4
1.1. Intended Usage
The Hop-Limit option was originally designed for a specific use case
[DOTS-SIG-CHANNEL]. However, its intended usage is general:
New CoAP proxies MUST
implement this option and have it enabled by
Note that this means that a server that receives requests both via
proxies and directly from clients may see otherwise identical
requests with and without the Hop-Limit option included; servers with
internal caching will therefore also want to implement this option,
since understanding the Hop-Limit option will improve caching
The key words "MUST
", "MUST NOT
", "SHALL NOT
", "SHOULD NOT
", "NOT RECOMMENDED
" in this document are to be interpreted as described in
BCP 14 [RFC2119
] when, and only when, they appear in all
capitals, as shown here.
Readers should be familiar with the terms and concepts defined in
3. Hop-Limit Option
The properties of the Hop-Limit option are shown in Table 1. The
formatting of this table follows the one used in Table 4 of [RFC7252
). The C
, and R
columns indicate the properties
Critical, Unsafe, NoCacheKey, and Repeatable defined in Section 5.4
]. None of these properties is marked for the Hop-Limit
| Number | C | U | N | R | Name | Format | Length | Default |
| 16 | | | | | Hop-Limit | uint | 1 | 16 |
Table 1: CoAP Hop-Limit Option Properties
The Hop-Limit option (Section 6.2
) is an elective option used to
detect and prevent infinite loops of CoAP requests when proxies are
involved. The option is not repeatable. Therefore, any request
carrying multiple Hop-Limit options MUST
be handled following the
procedure specified in Section 5.4.5 of [RFC7252
The value of the Hop-Limit option is encoded as an unsigned integer
(see Section 3.2 of [RFC7252
]). This value MUST
be between 1 and 255
inclusive. CoAP requests received with a Hop-Limit option set to '0'
or greater than '255' MUST
be rejected by a CoAP server/proxy using
4.00 (Bad Request).
The Hop-Limit option is safe to forward. That is, a CoAP proxy that
does not understand the Hop-Limit option should forward it on. The
option is also part of the cache key. As such, a CoAP proxy that
does not understand the Hop-Limit option must follow the
recommendations in Section 5.7.1 of [RFC7252
] for caching. Note that
loops that involve only such proxies will not be detected.
Nevertheless, the presence of such proxies will not prevent infinite
loop detection if at least one CoAP proxy that supports the Hop-Limit
option is involved in the loop.
A CoAP proxy that understands the Hop-Limit option SHOULD
instructed, using a configuration parameter, to insert a Hop-Limit
option when relaying a request that does not include the Hop-Limit
The initial Hop-Limit value should be configurable. If no initial
value is explicitly provided, the default initial Hop-Limit value of
be used. This value is chosen so that in the majority of
cases, it is sufficiently large to guarantee that a CoAP request
would not be dropped in networks when there were no loops, but not so
large as to consume CoAP proxy resources when a loop does occur. The
value is still configurable to accommodate unusual topologies. Lower
values should be used with caution and only in networks where
topologies are known by the CoAP client (or proxy) inserting the Hop-
Because forwarding errors may occur if inadequate Hop-Limit values
are used, proxies at the boundaries of an administrative domain MAY
be instructed to remove or rewrite the value of Hop-Limit carried in
received requests (i.e., ignore the value of Hop-Limit received in a
request). This modification should be done with caution in case
proxy-forwarded traffic repeatedly crosses the administrative domain
boundary in a loop, rendering ineffective the efficacy of loop
detection through the Hop-Limit option.
Otherwise, a CoAP proxy that understands the Hop-Limit option MUST
decrement the value of the option by 1 prior to forwarding it. A
CoAP proxy that understands the Hop-Limit option MUST NOT
stored 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached) error response unless the value of
the Hop-Limit option in the presented request is smaller than or
equal to the value of the Hop-Limit option in the request used to
obtain the stored response. Otherwise, the CoAP proxy follows the
behavior in Section 5.6 of [RFC7252
Note: If a request with a given value of Hop-Limit failed to reach
a server because the hop limit is exhausted, then the same failure
will be observed if a smaller value of the Hop-Limit option is
CoAP requests MUST NOT
be forwarded if the Hop-Limit option is set to
'0' after decrement. Requests that cannot be forwarded because of
exhausted Hop-Limit SHOULD
be logged with a 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached)
error response sent back to the CoAP peer. It is RECOMMENDED
CoAP implementations support means to alert administrators about loop
errors so that appropriate actions are undertaken.
4. Debugging and Troubleshooting
To ease debugging and troubleshooting, the CoAP proxy that detects a
loop includes an identifier for itself in the diagnostic payload
under the conditions detailed in Section 5.5.2 of [RFC7252
identifier MUST NOT
include any space character (ASCII value 32).
The identifier inserted by a CoAP proxy can be, for example, a proxy
name (e.g., p11.example.net), proxy alias (e.g., myproxyalias), or IP
address (e.g., 2001:db8::1).
Each intermediate proxy involved in relaying a 5.08 (Hop Limit
Reached) error message prepends its own identifier in the diagnostic
payload with a space character used as separator. Only one
identifier per proxy should appear in the diagnostic payload. This
approach allows the limiting of the size of the 5.08 (Hop Limit
Reached) error message, eases the correlation with hops count, and
detects whether a proxy was involved in the forwarding of the 5.08
(Hop Limit Reached) error message. Note that an intermediate proxy
prepends its identifier only if there is enough space as determined
by the Path MTU (Section 4.6 of [RFC7252
]). If not, an intermediate
proxy forwards the 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached) error message to the next
hop without updating the diagnostic payload.
An intermediate proxy MUST NOT
forward a 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached)
error message if it detects that its identifier is included in the
diagnostic payload. Such messages SHOULD
be logged and appropriate
alerts sent to the administrators.
5. HTTP Mapping Considerations
This section focuses on the HTTP mappings specific to the CoAP
extension specified in this document. As a reminder, the basic
normative requirements on HTTP/CoAP mappings are defined in
Section 10 of [RFC7252
]. The implementation guidelines for HTTP/CoAP
mappings are elaborated in [RFC8075
By default, the HTTP-to-CoAP Proxy inserts a Hop-Limit option
following the guidelines in Section 3
. The HTTP-to-CoAP Proxy may be
instructed by policy to insert a Hop-Limit option only if a Via
(Section 5.7.1 of [RFC7230
]) or CDN-Loop header field [RFC8586
present in the HTTP request.
The HTTP-to-CoAP Proxy uses 508 (Loop Detected) as the HTTP response
status code to map 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached). Furthermore, it maps
the diagnostic payload of 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached) as per Section 6.6
By default, the CoAP-to-HTTP Proxy inserts a Via header field in the
HTTP request if the CoAP request includes a Hop-Limit option. The
CoAP-to-HTTP Proxy may be instructed by policy to insert a CDN-Loop
header field instead of the Via header field.
The CoAP-to-HTTP Proxy maps the 508 (Loop Detected) HTTP response
status code to 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached). Moreover, the CoAP-to-HTTP
Proxy inserts its information following the guidelines in Section 4
When both HTTP-to-CoAP and CoAP-to-HTTP proxies are involved, the
loop detection may break if the proxy-forwarded traffic repeatedly
crosses the HTTP-to-CoAP and CoAP-to-HTTP proxies. Nevertheless, if
the loop is within the CoAP or HTTP legs, the loop detection is still
6. IANA Considerations
6.1. CoAP Response Code
IANA has registered the following entry in the "CoAP Response Codes"
subregistry available at <https://www.iana.org/assignments/core-
| Code | Description | Reference |
| 5.08 | Hop Limit Reached | RFC 8768
Table 2: CoAP Response Codes
6.2. CoAP Option Number
IANA has registered the following entry in the "CoAP Option Numbers"
subregistry available at <https://www.iana.org/assignments/core-
| Number | Name | Reference |
| 16 | Hop-Limit | RFC 8768
Table 3: CoAP Option Number
7. Security Considerations
Security considerations related to CoAP proxying are discussed in
Section 11.2 of [RFC7252
A CoAP endpoint can probe the topology of a network into which it is
making requests by tweaking the value of the Hop-Limit option. Such
probing is likely to fail if proxies at the boundaries of that
network rewrite the value of Hop-Limit carried in received requests
(see Section 3
The diagnostic payload of a 5.08 (Hop Limit Reached) error message
may leak sensitive information revealing the topology of an
administrative domain. To prevent that, a CoAP proxy that is located
at the boundary of an administrative domain MAY
be instructed to
strip the diagnostic payload or part of it before forwarding on the
5.08 (Hop Limit Reached) response.
8.1. Normative References
] Bradner, S., "Key words for use in RFCs to Indicate
Requirement Levels", BCP 14, RFC 2119
, March 1997,
] Fielding, R., Ed. and J. Reschke, Ed., "Hypertext Transfer
Protocol (HTTP/1.1): Message Syntax and Routing", RFC 7230
, DOI 10.17487/RFC7230
, June 2014,
] Shelby, Z., Hartke, K., and C. Bormann, "The Constrained
Application Protocol (CoAP)", RFC 7252
, June 2014,
] Castellani, A., Loreto, S., Rahman, A., Fossati, T., and
E. Dijk, "Guidelines for Mapping Implementations: HTTP to
the Constrained Application Protocol (CoAP)", RFC 8075
, February 2017,
] Leiba, B., "Ambiguity of Uppercase vs Lowercase in RFC 2119
Key Words", BCP 14, RFC 8174
, DOI 10.17487/RFC8174
May 2017, <https://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc8174
8.2. Informative References
Reddy, T., Boucadair, M., Patil, P., Mortensen, A., and N.
Teague, "Distributed Denial-of-Service Open Threat
Signaling (DOTS) Signal Channel Specification", Work in
Progress, Internet-Draft, draft-ietf-dots-signal-channel-
41, 6 January 2020, <https://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-
] Ludin, S., Nottingham, M., and N. Sullivan, "Loop
Detection in Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)", RFC 8586
, April 2019,
This specification was part of [DOTS-SIG-CHANNEL]. Many thanks to
those who reviewed DOTS specifications.
Thanks to Klaus Hartke, Carsten Bormann, Peter van der Stok, Jim
Schaad, Jaime Jiménez, Roni Even, Scott Bradner, Thomas Fossati,
Radia Perlman, Éric Vyncke, Suresh Krishnan, Roman Danyliw, Barry
Leiba, Christer Holmberg, Benjamin Kaduk, and Adam Roach for their
review and comments.
Carsten Bormann provided the "Intended Usage" text.
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